National Instruments (NI) makes a measurable difference, virtually, in the lab. The company’s products help create virtual instruments that can observe, measure, and control electrical signals and physical attributes such as voltage and pressure. The company's flagship LabView product allows users to create graphical interfaces for controlling instruments and capturing and analyzing data, as well as set up automated functions. In addition, NI provides programming tools, software applications, and hardware products. Its hardware and software products can be used in a modular fashion, depending on a customer’s needs. The Americas accounts for around 40% of sales.
National Instruments’ products generate about 90% of revenue with software maintenance accounting for the other 10%.
The company offers application software products that include NI TestStand, NI VeriStand, NI DIAdem, NI InsightCM Enterprise, and NI Multisim, which complement the LabVIEW and other NI products and some third-party software.
NI’s hardware and driver software products include Data Acquisition (DAQ) Hardware/Driver Software and a PXI Modular Instrumentation Platform. The DAQ products are instruments on a board that users can combine with sensors, signal conditioning hardware, and software to acquire analog data and convert it into a digital format that can be accepted by a computer. The PXI modular instrument platform is a souped-up PC with modules that address a variety of measurement and automation applications.
National Instruments operates two facilities to manufacture its hardware.
NI is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and it has offices in more than 50 countries, as well as manufacturing plants in Hungary and Malaysia.
Customers in the Americas account for 40% of sales while customers in the Europe, Middle East, Israel, and Africa and the Asia/Pacific regions bring in about 30% each.
Sales and Marketing
NI relies on a direct sales force to sell hardware and software to its customer base of 35,000 companies. Less than 10% of sales are made through distributors, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), value-added resellers (VARs), system integrators, and consultants.
The company targets the automotive, aerospace, computer and electronics, automated test equipment, consumer electronics, education, government and defense, medical research, energy, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, and telecommunications industries, among others. Customers include Intel, Qorvo, Honeywell, and Mazda.
National Instruments has posted steady revenue gains (an average of about 6% a year) for about a decade, but for a dip in sales in 2015. In 2017, revenue rose 5% to about $1.3 billion, a company high, from 2016 on increases in products and services and across all geographic areas. A significant improvement was in large orders (those with a value greater of more than $100,000), which rose 15% year-to-year. Customers placing large orders expressed demand for NI’s automated test products, 5G prototyping tools, and semiconductor test systems.
Operating income rose to about $146 million in 2017 from 2016, but the company set aside about $70 million because of the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, leaving National Instrument with net income of about $52 million in 2017 compared to about $83 million in 2016.
Cash rose to $290 million in 2017, a $5 million increase from the year before.
LabVIEW has been NI’s most important product since it was introduced in the mid-1970s (about 30% of its patents are related to the software) and the company keeps rolling out new versions. In 2017, it released LabVIEW NXG, which reduces time to measurement with data acquisition devices and benchtop instruments in engineering workflows for acquiring and visualizing data sets.
NI believes LabView and its other products and services match up with technology trends in semiconductor design, autonomous vehicles, 5G telecommunications, and the Industrial Internet of Things. The company focuses on areas that will help its customers move through development and testing phases faster and get products to market.
The company reduced headcount in 2017 about 2% to improve efficiency and align resources. The restructuring cost about $12 million in severance and other charges.
Since 2014, NI has competed head-to-head with Keysight Technologies Inc. ($3.1 billion revenue in 2017). Keysight, which was spun out of Agilent, aggressively markets products that are competitive with those of NI. The competition could pose pricing and market share issues for NI.
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